World War One Anti-Aircraft Gun Postcard

This week’s postcard is a particularly interesting image of a World War One mobile Anti-Aircraft gun. As World War One progressed aircraft became ever more capable and were used in a variety of roles from reconnaissance to bombing. Whilst fighters were perhaps the most effective method of shooting down enemy aircraft, it was quickly recognised that in some instances artillery was a quicker way of engaging the enemy as the guns could be brought to bear and into a firing state in under a minute, much quicker than scrambling a fighter and getting it to where it was needed. A number of artillery pieces were used in both the UK and France and quickly it was found that there was a need for mobile artillery that could be quickly driven to a vulnerable point ready to engage the enemy. Today’s image is of one of these weapons, a QF 13 pounder 9cwt mounted on a lorry:

The 13pounder 9cwt had been developed after Sir John French had recognised the need for better anti-aircraft guns as early as 1915. It combined the breach of an 18 pounder with a sleeved barrel that allowed it to fire a 3″, 13 pdr round with the same propellant charge as an 18pdr, giving it much better velocity for engaging aircraft. Its initial rather fragile mounts were replaced by the Mk iv mount which allowed a greater range of recoil and thus reduced the risk of damage to the mount from the force of firing. A pair of wheels allowed it to be quickly elevated and traversed to engage targets:

Although used for a time in England, better AA guns to protect London ensured that most of the guns saw service in France and the elaborate camouflage rig over the gun suggests that this was photographed on the continent near the front lines:

A locker of ammunition can be seen to the side, the shells being able to be quickly passed to the breach to keep a steady fire up if an aircraft were to come into the area:

Note also the mallet and pick axe stowed next to these. As the gun is mounted on a lorry there is always the danger of the lorry bogging down and needing to be dug out, or of the fuel tanks needing to be topped up on the road so a row of fuel tins can be seen on a vehicle behind the gun in the lorry park:

At the end of the war there were 306 of these guns in service and of these 248 were on the Western Front. Happily a complete example on a J Type Lorry survives in the Imperial War Museum and looks particularly fine:

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